St Katherine’s Dock Commission

This is the drawing so far of the boat I was commissioned to paint. Rather faint I am afraid, not only because it’s in pencil but also because she has had a wash of phthalo blue and cobalt mix. Some orange and vermillion went in to the tops of the boats to give that evening sun look, but that will need strengthening

I have already sketched this scene just to realise the composition and to get that agreed. This is the real thing. Just a tad apprehensive, as although I have painted boats enough times, this would be the first boat portrait that I have tackled.

So much of the boat is white, and not even many shadows to relieve the situation. The vessel is beautiful, streamlined and highly polished, in fact all the things that don’t work so well in watercolour. A rough-textured old steamer, dirty and rusty, with plenty of smoke really lets the watercolourist’s imagination run riot. 

But we don’t have that. We have a sleek yacht instead. In the background of the reference photograph which I haven’t published here, are a row of houses, which were not only superfluous, but actually crowded the composition, and didn’t look good against the boats. I have left them out altogether, and I have not regretted doing so. The depth of the painting has increased whilst still preserving the look of a marina

So for the moment I shall just carry on building up the colours on the items that matter. The yacht centre stage of course is the star attraction and needs to come forward

We shall see how this goes

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Burne-Jones Exhibition at the Tate Art Gallery

Golden Stairs by Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898)

One of many well-known paintings by Sir Edward Burne-Jones featured in a special exhibition currently at Tate Britain until February 2019 which is the first major retrospective to be held for forty years. Inspired by the church and the medieval period, his work represented the antidote to the ugliness and the materialism of the Victorian period.

We went there recently. As always a superlative exhibition. To be seen if you can

There were seven rooms of drawings and paintings. Burne Jones was a superlative draughtsman . The second room deals with his time in Fulham, when he finally had space enough to embark on major projects for which he needed countless preparatory drawings, each one of which could be considered a work of art in its own right.

Renaissance art and four visits to Italy encouraged his approach to the body. His male figures appeared troubled while women were portrayed beautiful yet sinister. About this time he was experimental with media, using gouache with chalk and later metallic pigments.

His attitude to the male figure caused him to resign from the Old Watercolour Society which had been shocked by his work. . He was becoming known as one of the most daring artists of his time. After a blissful period of working to his own pace, his exhibition pictures started to take London by storm, and later Paris, so that he became known throughout Europe.

Most impressive were the rooms containing his Series Paintings, massive works commissioned by serious clients with rooms that can show these works as they should be shown. This was of course the era of the seriously wealthy patron who could command works like these., such as the Perseus series, commissioned by the young future prime Minister Arthur Balfour for his London residence.  Curiously Balfour was later to be president of Woking Golf Club, close to where I live. The only prime minister to be president of a golf club. I wondered what these wonderful paintings would look like in the golf club lounge, but that was me being facetious.

I cannot describe the paintings of the Perseus Story, as they were too magnificent. Like wise the Briar Rose which is really the story of Sleeping Beauty. Wonderful illustrations of knights and princesses. Burne Jones I think today would have been in his element illustrating Game of Thrones or the Harry Potter stories.

He worked closely with William Morris, from whom he derived the bulk of his income. He became especially well-known for designing stained glass windows for churches and cathedrals the breadth of the land and indeed the old Empire.

One of the last great figures of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. This is a wonderful collection gathered together for a short time

Work Started on the Fountain of Love Commission

Fountain of Love Detail

I have been working on the drawing of the Fountain of Love commission, which has been testing to say the least. I have just included a detail here, otherwise the image would be too faint to show

The photograph of the fountain itself was included in my last post, and I may have explained that the fountain is in the grounds of Cliveden House in Buckinghamshire. The house is magnificent and is now an hotel but the grounds are run by the National Trust and are extensive.

Over the ages, Cliveden was associated with powerful women. One of the more recent being Nancy Astor, American heiress as well as an MP in Westminster, possibly the first woman MP. More recently still, Cliveden was the scene of the scandalous liaison between Christine Keeler and John Profumo, a married government minister

Again I have been balancing two commission projects, as I have just finished the sketch study of a rather lovely yacht in St.Katherine’s Dock, just to agree the composition with the client before going on the finished painting. I drew this with the help of a grid but there is something about the sleek almost feminine lines of a boat which seem to elude me, no matter how many measurements I take.

Dancing Girl Sketch

As usual the camera leaches out the colour but the essence is there. I did find it useful to make a sketch on this occasion. So many mistakes could be made and were made. At least these have been cleared out of the way, hopefully not to reappear

There is something about highly polished surfaces like plastic or metal, which don’t work well in watercolour. Give me some rough old wood or rusty iron any day, and that will look realistic enough to touch. Still, if you owned a rusty old tub, you probably wouldn’t want it commemorated in a painting

We will await the client’s comment to see whether I have got the composition right as a first step

Morning in Bosham Finished Painting

Morning in Bosham

The finished picture entitled Morning in Bosham

This was the first of the two paintings which I was hoping to plan together. But it was not to be. As the poet said, or something like, the best laid plans of mice and men go oft awry.

They certainly do. I have done a few sketches of the horse picture, but last Thursday the phone rang and a regular client phoned with a commission for an extremely ornate fountain called the Fountain of Love which is in the grounds of a mansion called Cliveden House in Buckinghamshire

I went to look at it, at the week end and took some reference shots and append one for your interestDSCF4449

I have just had to arrange a professional copy so that all the detailing is picked out clearly. This will be a test of drawing skill and no mistake. Too late however, as I have said yes.

Cliveden House is now an hotel. It is c18 I believe and is associated over the years with a succession of powerful women. The latest was Nancy Astor, the American heiress who became a Westminster MP, the first woman MP I think, and certainly a forceful lady.

The house is remembered for being the scene of the scandal involving Christine Keeler a model, and John Profumo the then Minister of Defence during the 1960s. She was also having an affair with a Russian diplomat, so the whole thing was considered a threat to national security. Profumo lied to Parliament and the whole thing nearly brought down the MacMillan government

The same day i received another commission to paint a boat in St Katherine’s Dock which might be postponed and give me a breather. Today I received a request to do yet another view of beloved Bosham Harbour and Church

That will teach me to boast about doing two paintings simultaneously.  The gods have a habit of looking down and teaching you a lesson if you appear over-confident. They have, and it serves me right.